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Among the many ill effects of a global pandemic, education will be among the biggest. It has been well documented that schools that responded well to remote learning, in the U.S. and beyond, have been the exceptions rather than the rule. Education organizations focused on technology have been no exception.
I spoke last week with Reshma Saujani, the founder and CEO of the computer-skills education non-profit Girls Who Code. Her group, which by the end of last year provided training for some 300,000 girls, has had to completely refocus its approach. “We had done only place-based learning,” she says. Shifting to remote instruction presented the same challenges schools everywhere have confronted. Teachers needed re-training. Students, half of whom come from families whose household income is under the poverty line, needed access to technology. Girls Who Code itself needed to rethink its instructional approach.
Saujani says that while many educators initially focused appropriately on safety or teaching tools, they’re now turning to the actual coursework. “If you think about pedagogy rather than technology you can go even deeper,” she says. GWC, whose pre-pandemic budget hovered around $25 million, has emphasized instruction in rural areas that would have been harder to serve before. It is providing free summer immersion programs online and hosting virtual talks with its powerful network. Jack Dorsey spoke last week; Melinda Gates is on tap this week.
Girls Who Code relies on grants from about 80 corporate partners as well as individual donors. Saujani says finding new donors is tough in times like these, and she worries many non-profits won’t make it to the other side. She also feels her organization was built for this moment. Its three values are bravery, sisterhood, and activism. “A lot of women feel exhausted and overwhelmed,” she says. Saujani sounded awfully fired up to me.
A pandemic benefactor if ever there was one, the virtual events software company Hopin raised $40 million last week. It caught my eye because Fortune is using Hopin for its first major virtual event, Brainstorm Health, next week. Venture units of Salesforce, a powerful events host, and Slack, which also benefits from the online collaboration trend, participated in the funding round.
Sad: Microsoft is closing its retail stores—and taking a $450 million charge to earnings to cover the expense.
Happy: Unbroken author Laura Hillendbrand is feeling better—and her writing remains splendid.
Interesting: The New York Times editorialized against the Uber and Lyft position on California’s gig-economy law—the stakes are really, really high.
This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman.
A rolling stone gathers no moss. The social media advertising boycott primarily aimed at Facebook continues to gain momentum, with a lot more companies jumping aboard. On Sunday, Starbucks said it was pausing its social ads while it talks with partners about halting the spread of hate speech online. Coca-Cola said it would be part of the campaign on Friday.
I know what you did (online) last summer. Over in the next-door advertising privacy debate, Apple said it did not include more than a dozen web industry standard software calls in its Safari browser due to snooping concerns. Apple says that APIs that allow browsers to sniff for Bluetooth and NFC wireless signals, for example, can be used to profile people and track them on the web.
Nice place you got here. If you're playing tech regulator bingo, put a marker down on "Justice Department probes Apple's app store policies." Antitrust lawyers for the DOJ have interviewed app developers about their issues with Apple, which takes a 30% cut of sales, requires the use of its mobile payment system, and imposes other restrictions.
I'll throw in the floor mats and a free car wash. On Wall Street, online car sales are becoming a thing. Used car seller Vroom has seen its share price more than double in the two weeks since it went public. Now rival Shift Technologies is seeking a public listing by selling a stake to an already-public special-purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, called Insurance Acquisition.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
As complaints about the largest tech companies grow louder (see above), what are the possible solutions? Famed programmer and former Amazon exec Tim Bray has a proposal for splitting Google into four separate companies to reduce its undue influence over the economy. But would anybody go for it?
I think this would be pretty easy to sell to the public. To start with, what’s left of the world’s press would cheerlead, eager to get out from under the thumb of the Google/Facebook ad cartel. Legions of YouTubers would march in support as well.
Financially, I think Google’s whole is worth less than the sum of its parts. So a breakup might be a win for shareholders. This is a reasonable assumption if only because the fountain of money thrown off by Web-search advertising leaves a lot of room for laziness and mistakes in other sectors of the business.
Also, it’s quite likely the ex-Googles could come out ahead on the leadership front. Larry, Sergey, and the first wave of people they hired made brilliant moves in building Web search and then the advertising business. But the leadership seems to have lost some of that golden touch; fresh blood might really help.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Warning: Russian hackers may be trying to target you with ransomware. Here’s how By Jonathan Vanian
Google gets mixed reviews for its coronavirus aid initiative By Danielle Abril
Chamath Palihapitiya wants to be the Warren Buffett of tech investing By Lucinda Shen
The Coronavirus Economy: How office layouts could change for good because of the pandemic By Rachel King
Amazon dominates e-commerce during the pandemic—but Walmart is catching up By Lance Lambert
How Goodwill is reinventing itself to ride the pandemic resale wave By Phil Wahba
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BEFORE YOU GO
I hope who ever coined the term "pooper scooper" is available to consult with NASA, which is holding a contest to design a toilet that will work on the moon. Sure, there's the challenge of the moon's low gravity and the lack of water and $35,000 in prizes for winning entries. But what should this bio break handler on the moon be called? CNN has coined the lunar loo. That's pretty good, but can anyone do better?