Tag Archives: Microsoft

Project Torino – inclusive learning for visually impaired children…

 Building blocks of code for young leaners – code creation in new ways from Microsoft

 

Microsoft researchers, at their Cambridge UK facilities, are in the midst of developing a new set of coding tools which will support children with additional sight needs in exploring the creation of code, commands and programs.

Torino is a physical programming language, which will, it is hoped, enable children with visual impairments, to take part and contribute in coding classes. Sharing the world of code and developing an understanding of the structure of programmed technology with their peers.

It is hoped that the project, when fully realised can be useful to other cohorts of learners, from adults to those who can be constrained by dyslexia and autism, to be able to access careers as computer scientists or software engineers.

The World Health Organization estimates that 285 million people worldwide are blind or visually impaired, and the vast majority of those people live in low-income settings. In the United Kingdom alone, the Royal National Institute of Blind People says only one in four working age adults who are blind or partially sighted are doing paid work.

Source:  blogs.microsoft.com  Accessed – 28.03.2017

Recruiting young people and educators for the project:

The Project Torino Beta – Expression of Interest page is still live on the web. You can subscribe to receive more detailed information from Microsoft and Project Torino when the beta evaluation goes live.

The process is available  to educators and parents in the UK. See more here.

Inclusion at the heart of technology:

Reading the project detail, it is clear that inclusion for all learners lies at the heart of the project. The research and design work, initially geared towards children in the seven to eleven age group, has already created a curriculum for teachers to be able to use Project Torino. (No prior coding skills are needed…Ed.)

An ‘app’ has also been created to enable children, once having mastered their physical language coding skills, to move on into text based code, wherever appropriate.

Great news from Microsoft Research in Cambridge. We shall follow the project with interest.

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Women in the Tech Industry?

 Continuing our diversions for summer 2014 , we nonetheless remain interested in gender inequality and below take the opportunity to look at interesting initiatives designed to boost the engagement and equality of status for women in technology.

 

Girls in Tech Paris 2014 – European Lady Pitch Night

Despite the rather off message phrasing of the translated title, if you are a female technologist, active in a European based start-up and have been operational in your company or project for between six and thirty six months, then you could be n your way to Paris for this Girls in Tech Paris/Orange sponsored annual event on the 23rd September.

Applications have been extended and are closing on July 23rd, so you still have time to get your bid in. All finalists will receive tickets to Europe’s top technology conferences, including Dublin Le Web, LeWeb and Europas. Your submission will be tested, in English, in front of a jury, after a telephone interview to complete the selection process.

interneticon  You can read more about the competition by visiting the Girls in Tech London web pages here.

interneticon  You can see and complete the on-line application form here.

If you are a female technologist intent on a career in the sector, despite some of the reservations below, we think Girls in Tech London is a great resource. Their pages offer insights into fifteen UK Tech Women to watch in 2014. Great role models and great examples of women driven technology enterprise. See more here…

Microsoft – supporting change in the gender balance

The Seattle giant recently, in June 2014, held a number of sessions at  its Cambridge Research building in our region, designed to interest and promote female engagement with technology and software.

It is widely recognised that women entering the sector are faced by a massive gender imbalance, with attitudes to women still in transition in the industry. However, keen to not lose good minds and the opportunity for original research, Microsoft held a workshop on Tips and Tools for Scientific Research Success – ‘…aimed to educate attendees about Microsoft research tools, equip them with advice from experienced researchers about the opportunities of being an early-career researcher, and inspire them with examples from Microsoft Research that show the potential of computer science to change the world’.

Although 55% of enrolments in higher education are for women, data from HESA in 2013 shows, fewer than 3% of graduates were in computer science. Of that cohort only 17% were women.

Attendees at the Microsoft event in Cambridge looked at issues around cloud computing, research tools that Microsoft currently offers and how attendees might master Excel and WordPress in order to deliver and publish their research.

The attendees also looked at Chronozoom and Microsoft’s WorldWide Telescope. If you are interested in history and star gazing, these are great tools to find out more about your subject at any level, even if you are not a research scientist .

Microsoft have indicated that another ‘women in research ‘workshop is on the way in the Autumn of 2014. To request information and see the original Microsoft article about the  summer event go to the Microsoft web page here…

Coder Girls and Feminist Hacker Spaces

Another solution to the gender imbalance in ‘tech’ is to build a steadfast Bailey castle, and exclude the male majority from it. In San Francisco, the Double Union feminist hacker space does just that.

Just using the word castle would, we expect, bring us into conflict with the collective’s base assumptions. However, an overwhelming belief in open-ness and collaboration is, we recognise, trumped by the assessment that the problems for women in ‘tech’ industry are so large, that barriers need to be erected to allow a comfortable, clear space for reflection and creativity.

Fast Company recently published a profile of the feminist work space and of Amelia Greenhall, the spaces Executive Director. To sign up for Double Union women must evidence that they share a similar world view as other centre residents.

A key ‘counter-text’ for Unioner’s is Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. The Union holds that it is the tech industry that needs to change, not the women in it. Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, drove a movement forward. You can see the Lean In web pages here. But the more ardent, Double Union feminist approach, and the data, argues that for most women in technology, the barriers are not falling. Despite gentler feminist movements, girls who code projects and the well known female faces in the industry – tokenism at best the Unioner’s would probably argue.

They present a cogent argument. Google’s payroll includes only 17% of employees who are women, whilst Facebook offers workspaces and careers to only 15% of its staffing levels to women. Not much evidence of internal change in these major sector players, we would argue.

Perhaps the solution is the rainbow coalition approach? The ardent, exclusive feminists and the gentler, inclusive mainstream corporate sensibility will together reshape the face of ‘tech’ in the future, for all women? We hope so.

We read and were stirred by the Fast Company article. Written by a female journalist it none the less includes a description of what the Executive Director of the feminist space was wearing. We can’t remember the last time we read an interview with Bill Gates which featured his wardrobe?

(Are there any similar feminist community initiatives for ‘tech’ in the Eastern Region? We can’t think of any. If you know of one, let us know. We’ll feature it on our journal pages and continue the conversation…Ed).

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Climate Data – Microsoft contributes

Microsoft Research has recently announced its commitment to provide large amounts of cloud computing resources to help research projects contribute to the White House Climate Data initiative, a response to the Climate Action Plan sanctioned by President Obama. interneticon

The programme involves Microsoft Research providing 40 successful bidders with 180,000 hours of cloud computing time, using Windows Azure, and facilitated with 20 Terabytes of cloud storage.

Microsoft will also provide researchers with training and classes to ensure that project teams are best equipped to exploit cloud data mechanics.

Microsoft further commits to the deployment of FetchClimate, a climate data resource for past and present observations and for climate-prediction information. FetchClimate will be available as a fast, free, intelligent environmental information-retrieval service and as a cloud-based system that can be adapted to the specific needs of new projects.

interneticon You can read more about FetchClimate, a Microsoft free on-line tool tool, here.

The process for research teams to apply is not complicated. Short, three pages, submissions must be sent in by June 15th, 2014.

interneticon The on-line application form is here.

interneticon The call for proposals FAQ is here.

If you do, the very best of luck. See you in the cloud.

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Build a different, better workplace

Our RSA Animate series is so good, so thought provoking and so energising that to build a new journal for regional Fellows and not include the series would, we think, be a serious mis-judgement.

“How can we get people more engaged, more productive, and happier at work? Is technology part of the problem – and could it also be part of the solution? Dave Coplin, Chief Envisioning Officer at Microsoft, imagines what might be possible if more organisations embraced the full, empowering potential of technology and encouraged a truly open, collaborative and flexible working culture”. (Text courtesy of The RSA)

Proportionality, connectivity, internationalism and cross community. It sounds so easy.

Thought provoking? Want to get involved with the RSA in the region?

interneticon See more here…

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