The EA UFC 4 beta was abruptly taken down earlier this week, but I had an opportunity to play it, and here’s my thoughts. A week before Connecticut school districts must submit their reopening plans to the state, administrators are scrambling to prepare for an unknown September. Juggling parent preferences, student and educator safety, limited budgets and state expectations, they must consider what in-person and online education may look like, along with hybrid programs that blend learning methods. With the first teams scheduled to report in three days, solutions need to be found quickly. Ahead of the upcoming online-only version of its big annual conference, GDC commissioned a survey of 2,500 game developers to determine how the industry is coping with the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. While gaming sales are up as many turn to the medium to cope with stay-at-home orders, the virus appears to be […] PONTIAC, Mich. — A suburban Detroit school district said no student should be punished for missed online work during the coronavirus pandemic, two days after a news organization reported that a judge placed a teenager in juvenile detention.
EA UFC 4
The EA UFC 4 beta was abruptly taken down earlier this week. There was never a set time announced for the demos’ availability, but it felt like a relatively quick hook.
I’m not sure why this decision was made, but I can’t help but wonder if it was because of what felt like an increasingly negative set of impressions creeping their way onto social media.
Initially, I was very impressed with the beta. I enjoyed my first match against the CPU, and while the next few bouts online were marred by some lag, I saw enough there to feel encouraged about the game.
However, as I kept playing the beta, winning some and losing some, I felt as if something was missing from the gameplay experience. In EA UFC 3, whether I won or lost, I felt satisfied with the fight at the end of each online bout. I can’t say that was the case with the EA UFC 4 beta.
It’s important to remember, this was just a beta, and so many things can change between now and the final release. However, this is a beta that was released just about a month before the game is set to be available through retailers, and thus the shortcomings are a cause for concern.
Let’s look at what I liked and disliked.
In summary, there is a lot of room for improvement, and a shirt time to get it done. However, I do regard the EA UFC team as one of the best developer groups under the EA umbrella. They consistently update EA UFC 3, and it was one of the better sports games of the past two years.
While the EA UFC 4 beta didn’t leave the best impression on me, I still believe the final game could be enjoyable, especially after a patch or two.
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Author: Brian Mazique
Plexiglas, mask breaks and a hybrid of in-person and online learning. Here’s how Connecticut schools are planning to reopen.
Rakaila Lindo, left, and Robert Lindo watch as a parade of Bloomfield teachers passes them on School Street on April 22. Rakaila and Robert are in fifth-grade and kindergarten respectively in Bloomfield schools. (Brad Horrigan/The Hartford Courant)
A week before Connecticut school districts must submit their reopening plans to the state, administrators are scrambling to prepare for an unknown September. Juggling parent preferences, student and educator safety, limited budgets and state expectations, they are considering what in-person and online education may look like, along with hybrid programs that blend learning methods.
“I would say this summer has been the most challenging work experience of my life, as I try to plan for a safe reopening without knowing how many students will be back, how many teachers will not be able to return due to health issues, or what the situation on the ground will be in September,” West Hartford Superintendent of Schools Tom Moore said Wednesday.
The state has asked each district to develop unique plans preparing for three scenarios: a full reopening, a hybrid model where students do both in-person and online learning and an online learning only option in case the state sees a surge in coronavirus cases. Gov. Ned Lamont said a final decision will be made next month about how education will look in the coming fall, depending on Connecticut’s coronavirus metrics.
Because districts are expected to submit their plans to the state by July 24, they have been surveying parents and guardians to get a sense of how many would want their children to return and which would prefer to stay home.
As of Wednesday, Moore said the district received responses from more than 7,000 families, representing more than 75% of students. Of those families, about 80% said they are planning for their child to return to school, 6% preferred virtual learning and about 14% said they are undecided. Several districts reported similar results, with a large majority of parents favoring in-person instruction. Moore said the feedback is “incredibly important” as the district has to plan, schedule and staff both an online school and brick-and-mortar school for all grade levels.
“Additionally, the costs associated with reopening far outstrip any budget that we could possibly put together,” he added. “So it is an exceptionally difficult task.”
The state has expressed a preference for in-person education, releasing a reopening plan in late June that included guidelines for classrooms as well as provisions for temporary online learning for families who do not want children to return immediately. The 50-page plan discussed cohorting for children under high school age, mandatory mask-wearing and desk-spacing, among other health and safety measures.
In addition to following the state guidelines for classrooms, districts are taking other measures. In Meriden, class sizes will be limited to no more than 25 students and classroom doors will be kept open. Cafeteria capacity will be reduced by 50% and bus capacity by 40%. A draft reopening plan for the city’s schools discussed the possibility of a hybrid model that would involve students learning on-site for two days a week and online three days a week.
Stonington is preparing a similar model, among five options, according to The Day newspaper. Superintendent of Schools Van Riley told families Wednesday that schools are not unlikely to reopen until after Labor Day (Sept. 7) rather than Sept. 1.
In another hybrid model, East Hartford has suggested a plan that would divide students into groups A and B. During one week, group A students would attend classes in-person three days a week, while group B students would attend on the other two days. The following week, the schedule would flip. On the days students stayed home, they would continue classes online.
Glastonbury High School graduate Chloe Landers stands with her principal, Dr. Nancy Bean, for a fun 2020 graduation photo, after receiving her diploma, Wednesday, June 10, 2020, in Glastonbury. Wednesday was Glastonbury High School’s fifth and final day of delivering diplomas to graduates. Each student got to wear their cap and gown while GHS’s principal, Dr. Nancy Bean jumped out of a decked out Jeep, grabbed the diploma from the decorated bus and presented the student with his or her diploma in front of friends and family in their front yards. (Kassi Jackson/The Hartford Courant)
Hamden schools are considering having students attend school in-person for four days a week, with five-and-a-half hour days, the New Haven Independent reported. In a recent op-ed, New Haven parent advocates and organizers noted the state’s preference for full-time, in-person attendance and expressed concerns for health and safety. After working on a “Road Map to Reopening” plan for months, they said the state’s plan “blindsided” many families and educators.
Manchester public schools are considering 30-40 minute indoor classes for pre-kindergarten through fourth grade, followed by 30-40 minutes of activity or instruction outdoors, weather-permitting. Older students will also have time outside and mask breaks, although their breaks will be less frequent because their schools are larger.
Isolation spaces for those who start feeling unwell during the school day and contact tracing plans are included in a number of district plans, including Farmington and Waterbury. Virtual or phone parent-teacher meetings are also encouraged.
Through its regional health department, Cheshire plans to provide families with thermometers that will anonymously upload temperature data to the state so officials can track the number of fevers occurring in the town.
Cheshire Superintendent of Schools Jeff Solan said “difficult is probably an understatement,” when it comes to coordinating reopening with all of the different stakeholders involved.
Six weeks “is not a lot of time to prepare for providing instruction in person under these conditions, providing a hybrid model, and providing remote instruction,” he said. “All three things that we’re not necessarily used to, coming off three months of schooling that was anything but typical.”
“Most people recognize that there are substantial challenges to redefining how we offer school and at the same time making sure that everybody is in as safe an environment as we can practically provide,” he added. “That understanding has been really helpful.”
For online learning programs to be successful, all students must have access to reliable internet and working computers and software. Come September, educators must catch up tens of thousands of students across the state who may still not have access to reliable WiFi or a device.
A recent state Department of Education survey found that students in urban school districts were five times less likely than their suburban counterparts to have a computer, tablet or phone to do school work on and three times less likely to have the necessary Wi-Fi connection. Bridgeport students relied on paper packets for months before receiving laptops from the Partnership for Connecticut in May.
Noah Webster MicroSociety Magnet School principal Gus Jacobs, left, and West Middle School principal Lynn Estey, center, distribute laptops to students from Hartford Public Schools at Classical Magnet School on March 23. The school district loaned students laptops as learning moved online. (Brad Horrigan / Hartford Courant)
Like many districts, Cheshire recently invested in technology, adding cameras and speakers to classrooms so students can engage in learning online, as well as cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment.
The district was able to set aside $200,000 from last year’s savings, and it has also received federal funding through the CARES Act. Other school districts are still waiting to find out what funding they may get from the act.
Lamont recently said $99 million of the federal coronavirus aid Connecticut has received will go to school districts. Community members in less wealthy districts like New Haven, which received $8.5 million from the CARES Act, worry about the health and safety consequences of reopening without proper funding to support health measures.
While administrators are still working to figure out what the total cost will be, Solan said they cannot cut corners on health and safety.
“As more data becomes available, and the better we understand coronavirus, it seems like really the risk of transmission between children is relatively low,” he said, “It’s really the adults who work in the building who probably have the greater concerns from a statistical perspective.”
Solan said the district is working closely with unions to try and understand, “What can we collectively come up with that’s going to support our employees and our students during this really challenging time?”
Glastonbury Superintendent of Schools Alan Bookman said all schools must adhere to federal laws dictating whether or not staff members are required to come back or not because of age or other health concerns. At Glastonbury schools, 2-foot to 3-foot Plexiglas barriers will be placed in front of teachers’ desks.
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If teachers cannot safely return, “What’s going to happen to those classes?” Bookman asked. “At the high school level, might they teach from home while the students are sitting in school? What do you do at the elementary level?”
Bookman said the district is trying to see whether it would be possible to match teachers who are staying home with students who are doing the same and organizing Zoom classes throughout the day.
Transportation raises another set of issues. While districts are strongly encouraging families to drive their children to school, about 50% of students who are eligible for transportation are planning to take buses in both Cheshire and Glastonbury. Bookman called it a “weak point for everybody,” in part due to the difficulty in maintaining cohort divides and social distancing on a school bus. Adjusting bus routes, and potentially adding on more buses, may further strain budgets.
Cheshire is planning to ask for volunteers or hire aides to monitor children while they are on the bus, making sure they are wearing masks. The district is also working with the local police department to figure out traffic patterns.
“Any time you’re in those closer quarters, where social distancing may even be impossible, the masks are that much more critical,” Solan said.
Amanda Blanco can be reached at email@example.com.
Author: Amanda Blanco
Time is running out for the NFL and NFLPA to work out Covid-19 protocols ahead of training camp
In just three days, on July 20, the first two of the NFL’s 32 teams will have to report to training camp. According to reports by NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport, the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans, who will play in this year’s regular season opener, have informed their players that their respective training camps will start on time and that their rookies and quarterbacks will need to report to the facilities on Monday.
The problem is that many of the protocols surrounding a safe return in light of the Coronavirus pandemic are still undecided at this point in time, and subject to discussions between the league and the player union. Time is very literally running out for the two sides to strike a deal, and a recent social media post by Texans defensive end J.J. Watt further illustrated just how far apart the parties still are on some key issues:
In the interest of having everyone on the same page in terms of what we know and don’t know at this time, here are a few things I’ve learned being on four NFLPA calls in the last two weeks with hundreds of other players.
Keep in mind our rookies are scheduled to report in 48 hrs pic.twitter.com/wAH1XyQenf
The NFLPA held a conference call on Wednesday that included a group of around 50 high-profile players — Watt among them — aiming to inform where discussions with the league are currently standing. As the post above shows, however, plenty of questions remain unanswered with training camp on the horizon: Covid-19 testing and the handling of positive tests is still not clear, as are training camp and reporting procedures, and whether or not preseason will take place.
The situation remains a fluid one, and the questions raised by Watt are not the only ones currently being discussed: according to Tom Pelissero, the league and the player representatives are also still in the process of figuring out how to handle the projected decrease in revenue if no fans will be able to attend games this fall.
The league’s latest economic proposal has eliminated the controversial provision of a 35 percent salary escrow, but it replaced it with a reduction in player costs: teams would have to cut back on $40 million worth of salary cap and/or contractual benefits this year. The NFLPA, unsurprisingly, is against such a short-term solution — one that could present major problems for every team in the league if not properly thought through (the New England Patriots, for example, currently have just $7.79 million in cap space available).
If no solution can be reached, the revenue deficit would be accounted for next either next year or over a prolonged period of time. This could mean a flat salary cap for the next few seasons — it has been set at $198.2 million for the 2020 campaign — or a sharp falling of the spending floor for next year. What the latter scenario would look like remains to be seen, but the projections are not rosy: the cap could fall by $50 million to $70 million per club.
This would be a disaster for a lot of organizations.
According to calculations by Over The Cap, only seven of the league’s 32 clubs would currently be scheduled to stand under a $148 million threshold — among them the Patriots, who would have around $24 million in cap space to work with even after accounting for that drastic a drop. Other clubs, meanwhile, would be staring into the financial abyss: the Philadelphia Eagles and New Orleans Saints would be over a $148 million cap by a whooping $117 million and $101 million, respectively, next year.
The league wants to get an economic deal done before training camps universally open later this month, while the union reportedly does not feel the same rush to come to a conclusion. Either way, things could get interesting on a lot of fronts over the next few hours and days.
Author: Bernd Buchmasser
Game developer poll suggests longer hours and less productivity as the industry adapts to remote work – TechCrunch
Ahead of the upcoming online-only version of its big annual conference, GDC commissioned a survey of 2,500 game developers to determine how the industry is coping with the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. While gaming sales are up as many turn to the medium to cope with stay-at-home orders, the virus appears to be impacting devs in similar (if somewhat blunted) fashion to innumerable other industries.
For starters, 32% find themselves being less productive, in spite of working longer hours. That no doubt sounds familiar to anyone who has attempted to transition to a home office amid the pandemic. Some 70% of developers say they’ve moved to working from home — if that number seems relatively low, that’s only because 27% of those surveyed say they were already working from home. That leaves some 3% in the office, I suppose.
One-quarter of respondents say their household income has declined, while a third say their business has declined over the last few months. A third also say they’ve had a project delayed. That could certainly complicate the upcoming schedules of the latest version of the Xbox and PlayStation, both due out at the end of the year.
The shift toward moving online found many companies scrambling to update their workflows, including a shift to different cloud services. Though, the nature of the industry means that many were already accustomed to having a distributed workforce prior to the pandemic. While two-thirds say their company has a plan to return to the office, only 12% feel safe returning to the office right now.
The majority of respondents added that they believe the pandemic will permanently change some aspect of their workplace, going forward. “We had to make some changes on our daily tasks to compensate not being at our office working physically together, but those have proven to increase our efficiency and productivity,” one developer responded. “Lately we have even talked about embracing the home office configuration even after the pandemic.”
Author: Brian Heater
Teen locked up over missed school work; school disagrees with judge
PONTIAC, Mich. — A suburban Detroit school district said no student should be punished for missed online work during the coronavirus pandemic, two days after a news organization reported that a judge placed a teenager in juvenile detention.
ProPublica reported that the 15-year-old girl has been in Oakland County’s Children’s Village since mid-May for violating probation in a case involving allegations of assault and theft. A judge cited a “failure to submit to any schoolwork and getting up for school.”
Judge Mary Ellen Brennan said the Groves High School student was a threat to the community based on an assault allegation involving her mother, according to a court document.
The Birmingham school district said it’s not a party in the case.
From the start of the pandemic, the district “sought to hold students harmless given the challenging, virtual learning environment they were thrust in due to no fault of their own,” spokeswoman Anne Cron said Thursday. “The district maintains that belief today.”
The judge told the girl in May that she was sending her to Children’s Village to get treatment and services.
“She hasn’t fulfilled the expectation with regard to school performance,” Brennan said as she sentenced the teen in May, according to ProPublica. “I told her she was on thin ice and I told her that I was going to hold her to the letter, to the order, of the probation.”
Brennan declined to comment on the case but her husband defended her. Ed Lennon, an attorney, said his wife was concerned about the safety of the girl’s mother during a statewide stay-at-home order related to COVID-19.
The “mother may potentially be subject to more assaults by her daughter” if the two had been allowed to continue living together, Lennon said.
A new attorney for the teen, Jonathan Biernat, said he will ask Brennan to release her. David Coulter, the highest-ranking official in Oakland County, said he spoke to the judge about the case.
“While there are many more details that she is unable to share with me and the public to protect privacy of the minor and their family, I believe a review of this case within her court or during an appellate process is required,” Coulter said.
The ProPublica story was also published by the Detroit Free Press and Bridge, another news organization.
Grace was a high school sophomore at Groves High School in Beverly Hills when she was charged with assault and theft last year. She was placed on probation in mid-April and, among other requirements, was to complete her schoolwork. Grace, who has ADHD and receives special education services, struggled with the transition to online learning and fell behind. Finding the girl had violated probation, an Oakland County judge on May 14 sentenced her to detention.