Category archive

Technology

Computer science education still not in many Wyoming classrooms — nearly 18 months after bill signed

in Education/News/Technology
computer science standards
2369

By Laura Hancock, Cowboy State Daily

Learning computer code, using it to create programs and understanding how information is broken down and delivered by networks are just some of the dozens of computer science lessons that could be taught in Wyoming public schools. 

However, the speed of creating statewide computer science and computational thinking standards isn’t exactly gigahertz per second. 

Nearly 18 months have passed since then-Gov. Matt Mead signed a bill creating the standards. Since then, they have been written and rewritten. But for the past five months, the Wyoming State Board of Education has been in a holding pattern, waiting for Wyoming Attorney General Bridget Hill to opine about whether they could pass a constitutional challenge.

There’s no word yet from Hill, who didn’t return a message about why a formal opinion from her office is taking so long, or what that opinion will be. 

On Friday, Wyoming education officials are to testify before the Joint Education Committee, meeting in Cheyenne, about their progress. The committee sponsored the 2018 bill that created the standards

“We’d like to know what the delay is,” said Rep. David Northrup, R-Powell, a committee chairman. “We’d like to know what was in the (request) to the attorney general and what the attorney general’s decision is because it could affect all standards in Wyoming.”

After the bill was signed, a committee of computer scientists, teachers and others looked at computer science education standards in other states – such as Oklahoma – and at recommendations by professional associations. They used those to create Wyoming’s proposed standards. 

In January, the state school board sent the standards out for public comment. Elementary school teachers had concerns about learning the various new requirements when they have to teach other subjects as well. The committee returned to the drawing board between March and April.

The committee released another draft of the standards – some would be mandatory, some would support the mandatory standards but would not be mandatory, and some would be “enhanced,” which would also be optional.

Two Wyoming Attorney General office lawyers who advise the board were concerned that they were unconstitutional, since some school districts would be able to offer all the standards and others would only be able to offer the mandatory ones. The Wyoming Constitution requires public instruction to be “uniform.”

In June, the state board wrote a letter to Hill, asking her to study the issue and write a formal opinion.  

“We believe that will help us — not just with computer science but with other requirements,” said Sue Belish, state board vice chair.

Lawmakers and education officials need Hill’s guidance because creating mandatory and supplementary standards could affect education in other subjects besides computer science. 

Another likely delay

But even if Hill could clear up the board’s questions in short order, it may still take a while for computer science education to arrive in some Wyoming classrooms, said Astrid Northrup, an engineering professor at Northwest College in Powell.

Northrup, who is married to Rep. Northrup, was involved with efforts at the University of Wyoming to look at computer science teaching standards even before the effort was under way with the state board. 

Some school districts, especially those already teaching computer science, will be ready to adapt to the standards. Others will have to catch up, she said. The Wyoming Professional Standards Teaching Board has computer science teaching criteria. It may be unrealistic, however, for elementary school teachers, she said. 

“I think we have to lock that down,” she said. “I think that piece needs to be locked down in a realistic manner.”

Targets of online vitriol agree: Digital civility is improving

in News/Technology
digital civility
2304

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Rep. Tyler Lindholm, R-Sundance, is arguably one of the most active Wyoming politician on social media. 

He boasts around 3,500 likes on his public Facebook page and just over 1,600 followers on his Twitter account. He’s considered “very responsive to messages,” according to his Facebook page. He regularly posts videos of himself chatting in his car about stances he has on various issues, news stories (both political and not) or even fun Wyoming historical facts. 

“I’m the most followed politician in Wyoming,” he said. “Now, you have to remember that it’s Wyoming, so the number isn’t huge. But I do a lot on social media because it’s a great avenue to talk with people.” 

Lindholm regularly engages with his commenters. He takes his social media presence seriously. For the most part, people are kind, even if they don’t always agree with his views. 

As a die-hard Republican, it’s common for Lindholm to have detractors. That’s fine, he has a thick skin and can deal with that. 

The death threats get a little old, though. 

“Absolutely people have said horrible things to me online,” he admitted. “People have found my political page and have called me names and started to send me and my wife nasty messages on our personal accounts. I’ve definitely had death threats, but most of the time I ignore them. A couple years ago, there was a guy out of Pinedale who sent me something and that was the first time I took it as a credible threat.”

It’s not easy being a politician in the social media age. Democrat, Republican or independent, there will always be someone who doesn’t agree with an elected official. 

While some critics might send an email, write a letter or call their elected officials to explain why they disagree, others will personally attack these politicians online. 

Sen. Michael Von Flatern, R-Gillette, admitted he used to get an inordinate amount of threatening emails, but thankfully the number has tapered off in the last couple years. He said it wasn’t because people got nicer, unfortunately. They just realized the emails could be traced. 

“When I first proposed the idea of tolling on Interstate 80 eight or nine years ago, I got emails calling me everything but a civilized person,” he said. “I still occasionally get them, but I think the majority of those emails are coming from truckers in other states who drive through Wyoming.”

While the nasty emails have decreased, Von Flatern noted he still gets criticized by constituents in public forums, such as on social media or in comments sections of the state’s newspapers.

Von Flatern and Lindholm agreed that they’re always willing to talk with dissenters, but when people begin to verbally attack them, their families or loved ones, that’s when they shut the conversation down. 

Lindholm compared the current social media landscape to the Wild West, where people are still figuring out how to properly communicate. 

“It’s a cool concept, because we’ve never had such a freedom where we can communicate with elected officials,” he said. “But there are positive and negative aspects to it. You just have to remember the positive.” 

Psychologist Lisa Taylor, who also works as an adjunct professor at Laramie County Community College, did admit that there is a lack of civility online, especially in regards to politics. 

But she actually believes the landscape is getting better, not worse as many would like to believe. Von Flatern and Lindholm agreed. 

All three believe that people are emboldened by the anonymity that the Internet provides, where they can say whatever they want and won’t experience any real consequences. 

“There is a way to fix this issue: we have to find forums to talk about issues in a respectful manner,” Taylor said. “I don’t think we have to agree on these issues, but we can at least disagree in a civil manner and move forward. Maybe we have to recognize that the Internet isn’t the best way to have some of these tough conversations and we have to engage in another way.” 

Taylor pointed to a recent story about talk show host Ellen Degeneres and former president George W. Bush, who were photographed sitting together and laughing at a football game.

Degeneres stated on her television show that she was friendly with the former president and stressed she believes in being kind to everyone, regardless of differences. Taylor agreed with Degeneres and applied that sentiment to citizens engaging with elected officials. 

“You can’t walk into these conversations with the goal of changing someone’s mind,” she said. “You can have a discussion and share why you think they’re wrong, but when you go in with the mindset of completely changing someone else’s opinions, you’re just going to get upset and frustrated.” 

Lindholm, Von Flatern and Taylor agreed that people engaging with others online about a topic they feel passionate about should take a moment to make sure they are clear-minded. 

They should also ask themselves whether they would say something impassioned to the face of the person they are communicating with. If so, the message or comment should be sent. If not, the person should come back later and try to write something passionate, yet polite. 

Lindholm and Von Flatern want constituents to reach out when they agree or disagree about a stance they have. They encourage it. 

But once name-calling, cursing or being a “Billy Badass” (as Lindholm calls it) begins, people shouldn’t be surprised if there’s no response.

“There’s nothing wrong with saying that we can agree to disagree,” Taylor said. “I have faith that we can get back to being more civil. We just have to remember things aren’t as black and white as we believe.” 

Statewide Broadband Summit Scheduled in Wyoming

in News/Technology
2143

By Cowboy State Daily

Spurred by poor state rankings for broadband connectivity, a federal official has organized a “broadband summit” to be held later this month in Casper.

Wally Wolski, the new state director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s office of Rural Development, said the Wyoming Rural Broadband Summit on Oct. 10 will give elected officials,  broadband service providers, engineers and others a chance to discuss the obstacles to statewide broadband internet service.

“In certain areas of our state, the connectivity is as good as any place in the country,” Wolski said. “However, in our state because of our population, there are areas that don’t have any connectivity.”

Wyoming is ranked 46th in the country for broadband connectivity, according to a recent study by BroadbandNow — a self-described watchdog group which “helps consumers find and compare Internet service providers in their area.”

Wolski said it is a priority of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue to help rural states get connected.

Wolski said the disparity between urban and rural areas for broadband connectivity is similar to the “electrification gap” in the US back in the 1920s and 1930s.

“It was a real case of the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’,” he said. “We have the same issue today with broadband. Electrification didn’t just provide lights to rural areas, it empowered people and look at all the things that came about because of electricity.”

Wolski said the key to having a successful outcome is to put people who have the power to implement decisions in the same room and to share ideas, experiences, and solutions.

For more information on the summit, to be held at the Casper Events Center, visit the USDA Rural Development Office website at https://www.rd.usda.gov/wy or call (307) 233-6700.

Ransomware attack shuts down computer network at Campbell County Health

in Health care/News/Technology
Randomware virus
2074

By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

Gillette — A “ransomware” virus shut down the Campbell County Health computer system on Friday, forcing the Campbell County Memorial Hospital to direct incoming emergency patients to other facilities, according to the health system’s website.

According to the CCH website, “All CCH computer systems have been affected, which impacts the organization’s ability to provide patient care.”

“We have processes in place to continue to treat inpatients appropriately and safely,” Colleen Heeter, Chief Operating Officer, said in the statement. “We will continue to update this information as it becomes available.” 

CCH first became aware of the ransomware attack about 3 a.m. Friday morning. As of Friday night, there was no information as to when computer systems would be restored. 

Services disrupted at at CCH include:

  • No outpatient lab, respiratory therapy and radiology exams or procedures;
  • No new inpatient admissions;
  • Some surgery cancellations;
  • Patients coming to the emergency department and walk-in clinic will be triaged and transferred to an appropriate care facility if needed.

Patients are urged that before coming to appointments, to contact their clinic or department to see if they still scheduled. Phone systems remain operational.

According to Dame Joslyn, CCH Public Information Spokesperson, current patients are being treated as normal, but new patients are being diverted to hospitals in Casper, Sheridan and Rapid City, South Dakota. 

“We have transferred six patients since 11:30 Friday morning.” “We (CCH) have enlisted numerous local, state and federal officials,” added Joslyn.

Grow With Google reaches Wyoming

in Community/News/Technology
1918

A national program aimed at teaching people how to improve their digital skills reached Wyoming last week.

“Grow With Google” teams appeared at the Natrona and Laramie county libraries to lead classes in how people can use online tools to improve their computer skills, making them increasingly attractive to employers.

Officials with Grow With Google said a private study shows that eight out of 10 middle-skill jobs paying an average of $20 per hour now require some digital skills.

Google public affairs manager Katherine Williams said the classes help teach people how to find information that will help them find jobs or boost their own businesses.

“We’re looking to help educate folks on how they can get to that next level on their education so they can continue to grow with the economy as it does shift and change,” said Katherine Williams, a public affairs manager with Google.

Computers have become an increasingly important tool in business and Grow With Google helps people learn how to use that tool, she added.

“It’s increasingly important to understand, in today’s economy, how to use computers and the Internet to find information to further your career, to grow your small business,” she said.

Google has invested $1 billion in the program, which was launched in 2017, and usually partners with libraries to offer its courses.

Carey Hartmann, executive director of the Laramie County Library, said it made sense for Google to work with local libraries because that is where people go on their own to further their educations.

“And now we need to grow our digital skills and they’re changing so quickly that it’s natural for Google to want to parter with libraries and for libraries to want to partner with Google,” she said.

Microsoft contributes to computer science training

in Education/News/Technology
Microsoft contributes to computer science training
1271

By Becky Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Microsoft Corp. will provide more than $95,000 in grant money to the Wyoming Department of Education to provide computer science training for the state’s school districts.

The grant money is part of Microsoft’s TechSpark Initiative to offer computer science program implementation and training through the organization CSforAll — Computer Science for All.

CSforALL strives to make computer science a part of every student’s K-12 education.

The help from Microsoft is especially important now, given that the state Legislature passed a bill in 2018 that districts must offer computer science education to every K-12 student, said Laura Ballard, the Education Department’s supervisor for its student and teacher resource team. The goal must be reached by the 2022-23 school year.

“The timing is perfect,” she said. 

Training will involve several self-assessment and goal-setting activities.

“It will give districts the opportunity to think strategically about how to implement a high quality education in the districts,” Ballard said. 

Dennis Ellis, the manager of Microsoft’s TechSpark program in Wyoming, said in a news release that computer skills will be essential for students seeking jobs in the future.

“Making computer science education an opportunity within reach of every student ensures that Wyoming’s children can be future ready and will make our state attractive to public and private investments that can drive economic growth,” Ellis said.

Computer science education will be the first content area that educators and education officials in Wyoming will implement from the ground up, according to Ballard.

The task can be overwhelming to think about, she said Tuesday.

“When I was talking with some of our partners with Microsoft, they pointed me in the direction of CSforALL training,” she said. “It really is intended to help districts take a systems approach to create a plan to implement computer science.”

This training will help educators create a vision of computer science education and how it fits in their district’s vision for education, Ballard said.

Districts have to apply to attend the training, which will take place one of five locations around the state.

Locations and dates are:

·  Casper:  May 14-15; Oct. 15; and May 20, 2020.

·  Rock Springs: June 4-5; Nov. 14; and June 4, 2020

·  Cheyenne: June 11-12, 2019; Nov. 19, 2019; and June 11, 2020.

·  Worland: Aug. 5-6, 2019; Jan. 7, 2020; and Aug. 6, 2020.

·  Gillette: Sept. 24-25, 2019; Feb. 25, 2020; and Sept. 24, 2020.

Casper to host ‘Global Game Jam’ event

in News/Technology
Man playing computer games in a gaming forum, ALT=Global Gaming jam
762

By Brady Brinton

Wyoming game designers will come together in Casper this weekend to collaborate on new video game creations as part of a national “Global Game Jam.”

During the event, to begin Friday evening at the Wyoming Technology Business Center, programmers and designers of all skill levels will collaborate to create playable video games.

What exactly is a Game Jam? A Game Jam is a two-day session where people collaborate together to create playable video games. Attendees will form groups to program the code, design the art and graphics, fashion a musical score, create sound effects and architect the gameplay. The objective is two part; create a functional and emersible game, and to create synergy and provide experience in the game design field.

At the same time participants are working in Casper, others will be working at hundreds of locations around the world.

According to organizers, the event encourages people with all kinds of backgrounds to participate and contribute to the global spread of game development and creativity.

Go to Top