The very definition of a Unicorn is such that they aren’t necessarily bound by convention and are more open to doing things differently to achieve their goals. Though Python has been around a while, it’s still not necessarily an enterprise language on the level of C, C++, Java, etc. That could be changing before our very eyes.
New analysis on top programming used at top US unicorn reveals Python as number one language
This week we welcome Meg Ray (@teach_python) as our PyDev of the Week! Meg teaches programming to other teachers and has developed a Python-related curriculum. Meg is also the author of Code This Game, a book which will be coming out in August 2019. Let’s take some time to get to know her better!
Can you tell us a little about yourself (hobbies, education, etc):
I started out as an actor. I studied theater and moved to New York City to start out my career. One of the jobs I did to stay afloat while I was starting out was teaching theater classes to kids. I taught theater programs for students with disabilities as well as homeless youth. This lead me to my career as a special education teacher. I really enjoyed teaching and mentoring young people, particularly young people who have had challenges in their lives.
Around this time in my life, I began to learn to program. I was having a lot of fun with it, and I also started to understand computer science education as an equity issue. I was hired at a school to teach a software engineering and game design class that was required for all 9th graders. I learned as I went. I re-designed the course to include Python in addition to block coding and to be more inclusive of students with learning differences.
Now I develop curriculum and train other educators to teach computer science. Through the Cornell Tech Teacher in Residence initiative, I have been providing in-classroom coaching and support to K-8 teachers. I’ve also been working on my first book! Code This Game! is an intro to Python and computer science through designing a game. It was really fun to have the opportunity to apply everything I’ve learned about teaching Python to kids in a creative way.
On a personal note, I’m a new mom. One of the priorities that I have now is building community. I DM for a D&D (with babies!) campaign, and have been thinking about other ways to make space for family and community in my life. One thing that I love about Python is the Python community. For me that means participating in my local meetup, collaborating with others to support Python eductors, and attending Pycon as a family.
Why did you start using Python?
My partner is a software engineer. He really wanted me to attend the NYC Python meetup with him in 2013. I was convinced it would be boring, but agreed to go one time. I wrote my first program that evening and had a great time! I started going with him every week and using the time to practice and learn. Then he convinced me to attend Pycon with him in 2014. I signed up for a tutorial with Software Carpentry while he participated in the sprints. The rest is history. He’s also learned a lot about education since then. It’s been amazing to have the opportunity to push each other’s thinking, have debates about how CS is taught, and work on projects together.
What other programming languages do you know and which is your favorite?
With the elections coming up, regardless of who you support, this is vital. I haven’t seen any other major tech company coming up with solutions, though it’s mentioned inside the full blog post.
Starting today at the Aspen Security Forum we’re demonstrating the first voting system running Microsoft ElectionGuard as an example of how ElectionGuard can enable a new era of secure, verifiable voting. The demo shows how it’s also possible to make voting more accessible for people with disabilities and more affordable for local governments while increasing security. Finding new ways to ensure that voters can trust the election process has never been more important. The world’s democracies remain under attack as new data we are sharing today makes clear. ElectionGuard and the range of offerings from Microsoft’s Defending Democracy Program, as well as tools from others in the technology industry and academia, are needed more than ever to help defend democracy.
So the problem is real and unabated. It is time to find solutions. Governments and civil society have important roles to play, but the tech industry also has a responsibility to help defend democracy. As part of our contribution at Microsoft, we believe ElectionGuard will be an important tool to protect the voting process and to ensure that all voters can trust the outcome of free democratic elections.
Our ElectionGuard demo will showcase three core features.
First, people will be able to vote directly on the screen of the Microsoft Surface or using the Xbox Adaptive Controller, which Microsoft originally built in close partnership with organizations like the Cerebral Palsy Foundation to meet the needs of gamers with limited mobility. We hope this will help show the community how accessibility hardware can be built securely and inexpensively into primary voting systems and no longer requires separate voting machines to meet the needs of those with disabilities – ultimately making it easier for more people to vote.
Second, people using the demo will be provided with a tracking code that, when voting is complete, they will be able to enter into a website to confirm their vote was counted and not altered; the website will not display their actual votes. In the ElectionGuard software development kit (SDK) this verification feature will be enabled by homomorphic encryption, which allows mathematical procedures – like counting votes – to be done while keeping the data of people’s actual votes fully encrypted. The use of homomorphic encryption in election systems was pioneered by Microsoft Research under the leadership of Senior Cryptographer Josh Benaloh. This tracking code is a key feature of the ElectionGuard technology. For the first time, voters will be able to independently verify with certainty that their vote was counted and not altered. Importantly, in its final form, the ElectionGuard SDK will also enable voting officials, the media, or any third party to use a “verifier” application to similarly confirm that the encrypted vote was properly counted and not altered.
Third, the demo will show how ElectionGuard can enable end-to-end verifiable elections for the first time while retaining the familiarity and certainty of paper ballots. The demo will provide voters with a printed record of their votes, which they can check and place into a physical ballot box, with verification through the web portal serving as a supplemental layer of security and verifiability.
ElectionGuard is free and open-source and will be available through GitHub as an SDK later this summer. This week’s demo is simply one sample of the many ways ElectionGuard can be used to improve voting, and the final SDK will also enable features like Risk Limiting Audits to compare ballots with ballot counts and other post-election audits.
No one solution alone can address cyberattacks from nation-states. As we’ve seen, attackers will take any avenue to gain intelligence and disrupt the democratic process. That’s why Microsoft’s Defending Democracy Program has also offered Microsoft 365 for Campaigns and AccountGuard to protect political campaigns, parties and democracy-focused NGOs, and it’s why we’ve partnered with NewsGuard to defend against disinformation.
It’s hard to ignore the anxieties and even polarization that one sees in so many places around the world today. The forces of globalization are reshaping our communities in tangible ways. Increasingly, more people voice concerns about their place in society and their cultural identity and heritage. We see this not only in the United States, but across Europe, in Asia and elsewhere.
Our new AI for Cultural Heritage program will use artificial intelligence to work with nonprofits, universities and governments around the world to help preserve the languages we speak, the places we live and the artifacts we treasure. It will build on recent work we’ve pursued using various aspect of AI in each of these areas, such as:
Work in New York , where we have collaborated with The Metropolitan Museum of Art and MIT to explore ways in which AI can make The Met’s extensive collection accessible, discoverable and useful to the 3.9 billion internet-connected people worldwide.
Work in Paris at the Musée des Plans-Reliefs, where we have partnered with two French companies, HoloForge Interactive and Iconem, to create an entirely new museum experience with mixed reality and AI that paid homage to Mont-Saint-Michel, a French cultural icon off the coast of Normandy.
And in southwestern Mexico, where we’re engaged as part of our ongoing efforts to preserve languages around the world to capture and translate Yucatec Maya and Querétaro Otomi using AI to make them more accessible to people around the world.
These projects have given us confidence that we can put AI to innovative uses that can help communities expand access to culture and explore new perspectives and connections through shared experiences. We’ve realized that this work deserves more than a handful of projects. That’s why we’re bringing these efforts together in a more comprehensive program that will explore and pursue new opportunities with institutions around the world.
As with our three other AI for Good Programs — AI for Earth, AI for Accessibility and AI for Humanitarian Action — we look forward to innovating and learning together with individuals and institutions around the world. And we look forward to sharing what we learn with others in the hope that we can all help inspire each other to use the planet’s most advanced technology to help preserve some of the world’s timeless values.
I have to give credit where it’s due. Microsoft has been at the forefront of the a11y movement in the Nadella era. Great for more companies to come along, and thanks for Jason Ward to point this out below. Full disclosure, this blog owner has a disability as well.
There are one billion people, 15-percent of the world’s population, living with some form of disability. People with disabilities comprise the world’s largest minority group. Throughout the ages, disabilities have presented a barrier to an individual’s full participation in the range of opportunities within a society that are often taken for granted by those of us who are not living with a disability.
The altruistic efforts of individuals and groups, the results of activism, the efforts of policy-makers and the empathy of those driven with self-less care of the needs of others has helped to mainstream a range of accommodations that help level the playing field for people with disabilities. Still, there is much work to be done. In this age of technology, much of what we do in life has a digital parallel.
The need for websites, apps and more to be equally accessible to all is just as important as a ramp for those who use a wheelchair, public accommodations for service animals that assist those with blindness or the guarantee of a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) for students with special needs. Imagine being unable to complete a purchase online, prevented from participating in social media platforms or being unable to engage in any range of online activity. This is the reality for millions of people living with disabilities because many websites and apps are not fully accessible to them.
As one of the world’s technology leaders Microsoft, under the leadership of Satya Nadella, has embraced inclusive design — building technology from conception to production with all users in mind. This has yielded such products as Microsoft’s Adaptive Controller and Eye Tracking technology that allows users to navigate Windows with their eyes and much more. Microsoft’s commitment to ensuring much of its software efforts are accessible to all would not be possible without the help of Deque, a company that is passionate about accessibility and has enabled Microsoft to do much of what it does to make software accessible. I had a candid discussion with Preety Kumar, the CEO of Deque. We talked about Deque’s mission, its partnership with Microsoft and where the companies are going from here.
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