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Setting Goals Around Tasks, Not Outcomes, Is the Best Way to Improve Performance, a Study Shows

By Oliver Staley // Quartz // August 8, 2017

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The importance of setting goals is well-established.

Athletes routinely use goals as motivation. Corporate boards set goals for CEOs to create incentives. Scarcely a middle-school assembly or motivational speech goes by without a speaker exhorting the audience to set goals.

But some goals are more effective than others. A new study of US undergraduates suggests students who set task-based goals—such as taking a certain number of practice tests—will outperform students who set performance-based goals, such as a letter grade for the course. The findings, from economics professors at the University of California at Irvine, Purdue University, and the University of Florida, have been released in a working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research, and so hasn’t been peer reviewed yet.

The researchers ran two experiments with a total of nearly 4,000 students in an introductory course at a public university. In one, students who set a goal of taking a fixed number of online practice tests were 5% more likely to get a B+ grade or better than those in a control group with no set goal. In the other experiment, students who set a letter grade as a goal were no more likely...

A Googler's Would-Be Manifesto Reveals Tech's Rotten Core

By Ian Bogost // The Atlantic // August 7, 2017

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An anonymous Google software engineer’s 10-page fulmination against workplace diversity was leaked from internal company communications systems, including an internal version of Google+, the company’s social network, and another service that Gizmodo, which published the full memo, called an “internal meme network.”

“I’m simply stating that the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes,” the Googler writes, “and that these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership.”

The memo has drawn rage and dismay since its appearance Saturday, when it was first reported by Motherboard. It seemed to dash hopes that much progress has been made in unraveling the systemic conditions that produce and perpetuate inequity in the technology industry. That includes increasing the distribution of women and minorities in technical jobs, equalizing pay, breaking the glass ceiling, and improving the quality of life in workplaces that sometimes resemble frat houses more than businesses.

These reactions to the screed are sound, but they risk missing a larger problem: The kind of computing systems that get made and used by people outside the industry, and with serious consequences, are a...

This Coding Bootcamp Doesn’t Try to Turn You Into a Full-Time Software Engineer

By Sarah Kessler // Quartz // August 4, 2017

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Many of the nearly 100 “coding bootcamps” that offer full-time, in-person instruction in the United States and Canada boast close to a 100% success at placing students in entry level jobs as programmers, which can pay as much as $80,000 per year.

But that success rate is often paired with difficult entry requirements. Some bootcamps boast that they are “harder to get into than Harvard.” Making bootcamps both widely accessible and effective has, for those that have attempted it, been a challenge, as has the promise of providing bootcampers with a new, lucrative career.

Codecademy has a different strategy that doesn’t come with the promise of a full-time job, or any in-person instruction. It aims for the broadest range of students possible. The New York startup, which launched in 2011, says it has signed up about 45 million people to take free online courses taught through interactive coding exercises. On Aug. 3, it will add an option for human instruction to those courses for the first time.

Instead of full-time instructors, which make courses expensive, Codecademy plans to take a customer service-like approach. For $20 per month, students who are stuck on a lesson can hit a “help...

What To Do Before a Vacation to Make Sure Coming Back to Work Isn’t Pure Agony

By Corinne Purtill // Quartz // August 3, 2017

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I went on vacation last month. In the final 15 minutes before leaving my desk for a week, I set out-of-office messages on Slack and Gmail, made an Evernote to-do list for my first day back, and closed my laptop, confident I’d return rested, organized, and ready to jump back into work.

Vacation is over now. I am none of those things. I’m groggy from too much cheap rum and not enough sleep. Pre-vacation Corinne thought the note “CALL THESE GUYS” next to a phone number sufficed as a to-do-list item; it doesn’t. Plus I’m distracted by thoughts of the trip. It was amazing. I saw a turtle. Can I even go back to the life I lived before that happened? I don’t know.

The last week at work before a vacation is often a frantic scramble to finish projects. But while meeting commitments to colleagues and clients matters, planning for your return may be a better investment of your time than crossing off tasks that don’t have hard deadlines. A few simple steps before a vacation can make returning it a lot easier. Here’s everything I wish I’d done before leaving...

New Research Shows 'Digital Natives' Are No Better at Technology Than the Rest of Us

By Michael J. Coren // Quartz // July 31, 2017

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Marketers and social theorists love to talk about digital natives. This group is supposedly a generation of early adopters under the age of about 35, uniquely adept at technology compared to their older counterparts. But according to a recent editorial in Nature, these digital natives are a figment of our collective imagination—about as easy to find as “a yeti with a smartphone.

The editorial points to a review paper published this June in the journal Teaching and Teacher Education, which concluded that “information-savvy digital natives do not exist.” Despite assertions that younger generations learn differently and require specialized, multimedia teaching strategies because they grew up with smartphones and the web, the authors say that there is no evidence to suggest that digital natives are more tech-savvy or good at multitasking than older generations.

This idea of the digital native was born out of a 2001 essay by educator Marc Prensky, who claimed that a new generation was especially skilled at processing multiple streams of information and using technology, reports Discover Magazine. Prensky argued the world should adapt its teaching methods accordingly. But Paul Kirschner, co-author of the Teaching and Teacher Education study and a professor of educational psychology at...